(Pic courtesy : humintell.com via Google)
There was something amiss. He could not put his finger on it but a part of his brain knew there was something definitely wrong. “I can’t tax my brains right now” he muttered to himself. “Getting up so early in the morning during such harsh winters is bad enough” he grumbled. His hand felt something wet on the pillow and he realized, to his chagrin that he had drooled onto his pillow in his sleep. A small smile played on his face as he thought about the fabulous dinner he had had the previous evening. “The food was an absolutely feast – visually and taste wise and the sublime live music just added a whole lot of authenticity to the pleasurable ambience. That vocalist was so good” he thought.
That was when the penny dropped. “Why the silence today ?” he wondered.
Every single morning, he had awoken to the sounds of devotional music playing. There were times when it had invoked his ire, especially on days when he’d hit the sack in the wee hours of the morning, only to be woken up a couple of hours later to the strains of M.S.Subalakshmi reciting the Suprabhatam. Little did he realize how much a part of his life it had become, how ingrained it was in his psyche and his mind, how connected that early morning music was, to a sense of normalcy.
He got out of bed, pulled on his jacket and went over to open the windows. He almost stumbled over the stack of the issues of Science Today. “They’ve probably turned the volume down” he thought, as he pushed the windows open and stood there for a couple of seconds, ears straining to hear music. Nothing.
“Got to find out what’s wrong” he muttered, as he rushed off to brush his teeth. He set the kettle to boil water and found he couldn’t wait. It was gnawing at him like a dog gnaws at a bone – that niggling feeling in his mind was relentless, persistent to the point of driving him out of the house without having had his morning dose of caffeine. That act was another first, because he never ever stepped out of the house without having had his morning coffee.
His footfalls in the corridor were muted because of his soft slippers, as he headed in the direction from which the music usually emanated. The entire corridor was silent. There was not as much as a hint of noise anywhere. The silence was, quite literally, deafening.
He rounded the corner and walked into the lift lobby. Yet again, there were no signs of movement. Silence prevailed supreme. Both lifts were idling away at two difference floors, no one having called them. He was just about to give up the James Bond mission and go back to the warm confines of his apartment when his eyes caught a large drop of something red. It was right at the other corner of the lift lobby. It was a big splotch and as he watched with growing horror, the splotch began to increase in size. Slowly, very slowly, it started to trickle along the lobby.
“What have I got myself into ?” he thought to himself, alarm rising by the second. Part of him just wanted to turn tail and run while part of him wanted to find out where that stream of red was coming from and what it was.
He could literally hear the pounding of his heart, the cold clamminess in his hands and feet as the adventurer in him took over. His feet moved as though they had a mind of their own and as he rounded the other corner, he saw a large pool of red liquid which was beginning to make its way down the corridor. It seemed to be coming from the small apartment at the very end of the corridor. “But that apartment is supposed to be empty” he thought to himself. “How is the door open then ?”
The door hinges squeaked when he pushed it open. Daylight was just beginning to break out through the skies and pour into the room through the window. There was no furniture and the entire room was bare, empty. The place seemed almost sterile in its emptiness.
He saw it then. One gleaming eye. There was something magnetic about the eye that seemed to be drawing him towards it. As he got closer, he got a good look at the creature and almost screamed out aloud. It was a creature, the likes of which had never been seen on Earth before. He contemplated calling the police when he heard the creature ask for help. Not quite believing his ears, he carefully leaned further towards the creature and heard it again. “Help me”, it said, sounding feeble and frail.
“Who are you and where are you from ?” he asked, warily. “What are you doing here ?”
“I am a being from another planet” replied the creature. “We were in the forests, looking for some life fluid when I strayed away from our group. Some humans saw me and injured me. I am very close to death and I can be saved only if I reach the mother ship soon” it said.
There was something so gullible, so trusting about the creature that despite all his common sense telling him to call the police, he relented.
“How will your mother ship find you ?” he asked
“Can you help me press these numbers into this keypad ?” asked the creature, holding out what looked like an extremely futuristic handheld device.
It took just a few minutes before the whole apartment was lit up with an eerie green light. Right in front of his disbelieving eyes a beam emerged from the ship as it started to pull the creature towards it.
“Thank you very much” mouthed the creature, its eyes drooping weakly.
The whole room was suffused with music too – strains of M.S.Subalakshmi floated through the entire room and he realized with a start that it was the Suprabhatam that was playing. Suddenly, there was a loud jangling noise as the engines of the mother ship started up.
The jangling was getting louder and louder. He tried putting his hands over his ears, squeezed his eyes shut but the loud sound was relentless. There was a loud crash and with a start, his eyes flew open.
His fingers touched something wet. He had drooled on his pillow again. The familiar surroundings wrapped around him like a coat of cosy known comfort.
He could remember everything with distinct clarity, though. “Was it really a dream ?” he wondered.
“Probably was” he muttered.
He had fallen asleep reading the Special Edition of Science Today – An Alien Special, they called it.
“Nice dream, though” he thought to himself with a smile. “Wait till my colleagues hear it”.
He went into the kitchen, craving a cup of coffee. That was the first thing he had, every single morning. His fingers closed around the handle of the kettle. He pulled the lid open to fill water and jolted, startled beyond comprehension.
The water in the kettle was boiling hot.